26 June, 2019

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Venezuela: Is It Reminiscent Of Socialist Suffering In Sri Lanka – A Response To Ratwatte

By Lionel Bopage and Michael Cooke –

Venezuela: Is it reminiscent of socialist suffering in Sri Lanka? A response to Mr Mano Ratwatte’s article

Mr Mano Ratwatte’s article provides little historical, cultural or political evidence for his erroneous contentions. He is more interested in point scoring. All he provides to buttress his case is two messages from Venezuela about their crisis. This leads him to bemoan the tragedy of a ‘once prosperous nation in Latin America’. The above testimony, he says, is ‘far better than expert commentaries about socialism and global imperialism from Sri Lanka’. 

Also evident is his distaste for the economic policies of the 1970 United Front (UF) government, concluding with the contention that it is the poorer classes who suffer most from the state’s largesse, as a state-controlled economy is both incompetent and corrupt. What follows is a refutation of these contentions.

The second letter that Mr Ratwatte refers to was written in 2014. It gives us some idea of who its author is – a student activist from a middle-class and affluent background who writes breathlessly that he has been ‘very busy’ finding tires, wires and gas to burn tonight on the streets. He also states that there are armed groups on motorcycles shooting at protestors and that many of the police have been replaced by the Cuban military*. The reality, Mr Ratwatte, is much more complex and bloodier. When Maduro legitimately won the 2013 elections, this enraged the opposition, who tried to destabilise the government.

With no evidence they alleged election fraud and called their supporters out onto the streets, included the author of the letter. These demonstrations became violent. Student protestors were not only building barricades but also made the protests lethal, with around 40 deaths, the vast majority of the dead being Chavistas and government employees, not student protestors like the letter writer. It was and still is not unusual to see young male protestors armed with truncheons and other deadly implements laying into the opposition. Mr Ratwatte, did you check the bona fides of your correspondent. Did he engage in violent attacks on his opponents? If not, does he know who did? Is he prepared to name the killers so they can be charged for their crimes? Until he clarifies his role in the lethal 2014 demonstrations against government supporters his views are suspect.

A replay of this is happening now in Venezuela. In the May 2018 presidential election in Venezuela, Maduro was re-elected as president with 68 percent of the vote with a voter turnout of 46 percent. The percentage of eligible voters who voted for Maduro was 31.7 percent. Compare this with the US President Trump who received only 27.3 percent of the vote and an even lower 26.8 percent for the Prime Minister of Canada Trudeau. Maduro was sworn in as president for the second constitutional term on January 10 of this year. It is this democratic will of the people that the opposition and their allies from the United States cannot countenance.

This is not surprising given the turbulent history of Latin America and Venezuela. Many of the commercial, military and political elite in the United States see those countries as their backyard, where they can do as they will. The U.S. incensed by the popular measures undertaken by the Chavez government has been constantly meddling; the most blatant intervention was its support to the 2002 right wing coup that was thwarted by the Venezuelan people. The ex-president Barack Obama’s executive order in 2016 declared that Venezuela is a “rare and extraordinary threat to US national security and foreign policy.” Harsh sanctions were imposed the day after Venezuelans re-elected Maduro for a second term in the May 2018 election. These sanctions, similar to the ones against Cuba, block access to medicines, food and other important items and interfere with trade. These sanctions stop payments and freeze financial assets of the Venezuelan government.

Likewise, the capricious and petulant nature of the current President of the United States should not obscure the fact a number of his senior advisors, like Bolton, Pompey and the current appointee on Venezuelan affairs Elliot Abrahams, have a murky record of supporting anti-democratic forces in South and Central America. Bolton went on TV and said, “It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.” Naked brutal U.S imperialism once again. The U.S has seized PDVSA assets worth 7 billion U.S. dollars. Bolton estimated the sanctions would block $11 billion in revenue to the Venezuelan government over the next year. In addition to these illegal U.S. sanctions, the Bank of England has withheld 1.3 billion worth of Venezuelan gold. The Trump administration claims that the sanctions “are expected to block $7 billion in assets and result in $11 billion in export losses over the next year for Venezuela’s government.” According to Latin American Geopolitical Strategic Centre (CELAG), the previous economic sanctions have cost Venezuela approximately $350 billion in the production of goods and services in the period 2013 to 2017.

Venezuela, when ruled by its middle class, was never a paradise. It was country of haves and have nots, with the well-to-do spending their holidays in Florida, shopping to their hearts’ content and coming back to a politically ‘stable’ country, knowing that the economy, the government sector, the military and the educational institutions were safe for them to exploit. Then Chavez and his movement appeared on the scene, winning election after election and bringing the forgotten and the downtrodden to the centre of the country’s political, economic and cultural life. They now had access to food, housing, education. For the first time there was a media that was not dominated by the elite, and educational institutions were opened up to the children of the poor. Chavez was able to do this without infringing on the economic or political rights of the middle class and yet, after every election, there has been a paroxysm of anger and incredulity at the result, included a failed military coup, launched with the backing of the United States**. The protests were more or less a reflection of the anger of those who had been accustomed to privilege, for whom equality was felt like oppression.

It may come as a surprise to Mr Ratwatte that Venezuela, like the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is part of the capitalist world market: it has to buy and sell goods. The price of oil has collapsed and there has been an unofficial economic embargo against Venezuela. This coupled with the heavy-handed tactics of Maduro, who lacks the charm and deft touch of his illustrious predecessor, has created a political storm exploited by rioters like the letter writer, who want a return to the untenable status quo.

It is sheer nonsense to claim that the opposition has the support of around 85 to 90 per cent of the population. Venezuela’s leading pollster referring to the opposition leader Juan Guaido wrote, “These radical (extreme right-wing) leaders have no more than 20 percent in opinion polls”. There is still strong support for the government in the barrios and rural areas, and many ordinary people who are critical of Maduro and disillusioned with the government have not come out in favour of the opposition. They are skeptical of the latter’s intentions and fearful that the gains they have made in the Chavista years will be taken off them. In such a complex and volatile situation, it is very unwise to support a divided and increasingly discredited opposition, as the current United States administration is doing. It is a recipe for civil war and one that bodes well for neither side of the class and economic divide.

To return to Sri Lanka, whilst not wanting to downplay the experience of the populace during the latter years of the SLFP dominated era; to characterise SLFP policies as socialist is misleading. It leaves out much of the narrative that is still affecting the Island. It was a Sinhala nationalist government with social democratic credentials. Its economic policies were put in place, unlike the current government in Venezuela, under the auspices of the international financial community, with the approval of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In fact, western financial economic journals applauded its economic policies and the financial restraint of the more left-wing elements in the government***. The edifice collapsed because of the country failed to move its economic model beyond the Plantation Economy, with export earnings falling behind imports. This resulted in an increasingly indebted economy. Coupled with the oil crisis, the result was a recipe for economic disaster (everything Lanka bought, sold and produced was dependent on oil). 

The question that should be asked is why countries with strong government sectors like West Germany and the Scandinavia were able to withstand these shocks. That is a question that is seldom posed. For all its high growth rates Sri Lanka is still highly indebted and has an economy dependent on its garment sector, tea, tourism and overseas remittances. Despite its impressive growth rates and its talented and literate population it has not been able to produce the goods it avidly consumes and needs like televisions, phones and food. In addition, the majority of the population including the affluent middle class and the rich still do not pay their fair share of taxes. It seems the Island’s economic and political elite have not been able to or even want to break out of this iniquitous cycle. On this vital economic question Mr Ratwatte’s silence is deafening. Mr Ratwatte’s simple binary exposition (capitalism good – socialism bad) has no answer to these complex economic and political questions that the country needs to address if it does not want to replicate the disastrous mistakes of the past.

*Shades of Granada, where the Reagan administration used Cubans as an excuse to invade. They found that the only Cubans there were those who were working on building an airfield. But why allow facts to get in the way of a good story?

**For a more dispassionate evaluation of the Chavista revolution and its counter reaction see Grandin, Greg, ‘Down from the Mountain’. London Review of Books, Vol: 39, No: 13, 29 June 2017, p. 9-12.

***The Tory rag The Daily Telegraph (27 October 1970) approved of their realistic economic policy, which sidestepped the key issues a socialist government would have tackled – restructuring the economy away from a Planation one and dealing the festering class issues that fuelled young Sinhalese youth at the time. Instead the economy became a job creating program of the Dias Bandaranaike (family Bandyism) clan. A restructured and fairer economy might have reduced inequity and unemployment but at the expense of those who had the most to gain from the status quo. This economic and political model is still dominant.

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  • 1
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    I am not sure whether Mano Rathwaththe was advertising for the US or he was doing political propaganda. Because, when there is lot of news available even inside USA why Mano rathwaththe talked only one side is very questionable. Only reason may be he is addicted only to certain news sites.
    In CT alone, two writers accused Mahinda Rajapakse and his policies in two different ways. Vishavamithra says Mahinda Rajapakse is ULTRA RIGHT WING. On the other hand, Mano rathwatte says it is socialist.
    I know a foreign journalist had accused Ranil for being Ultra liberal right wing. there is not question, Sri lankan constitution and politicians run the govt as a Neo-Liberal govt. I say, Maithripala sirisena also plays the game to both sides and MY GUESS IS MAITHRIPALA IS MORE TOWARDS NEO-LIBERALS BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT THE International community and NGOs want. If not both start bashing MS.- the very same thing that happened to Mahinda Rajapakse. Ranil’s govt is as corrupt as Mahinda Rajapakse’s govt. Particuarly, All the Criminals in the Ranil’s govt changed sides to Mahinda Rajapakse when MULGAL KARU changed sides.

    • 5
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      Whatever nomenclature one is prone to dabble in ……… which only distort the facts …………. the SLFP side of politics starting with SWRD, practiced, not socialism but the politics of envy ………. that up to this day is practiced by the latter-day “SLFP” stalwarts Mahinda and Sirisena …….

      What progressive policies has Sirisena (or Mahinda) has to offer other than mind-numbingly backward Sinhala-Buddhism? Just think – if you can – what 21st century forward looking progressive polices have/can they offer except more of the same prehistoric Sinhala-Buddhist-backwardness? I’m not kidding; I wish for the sake of the country a true Sinhala-Buddhist will step up to argue/discuss this. Please, please, please don’t be silent ……… and run away and hide to snipe from the sidelines.

      It’s envy of the progressive, successful and rich …….. if one is progressive one eventually ends up successful and oft times rich.

      Although Sirisena and Mahinda and their ilk of the “SLFP” side of politics, have they themselves become rich – but still remain backward in their mind-set – while marshalling the armies of envy against the progressives.

      Progressives were predominant in the Catholic/Christian coastal-belt with their exposure to the European invaders and the schools they established in the costal-belt. This is the root of envy between the inland backward-Buddhists and the progressive costal-belt Christians of any ethnicity ……..which the Christian turncoat SWRD was able to exploit brilliantly ……

    • 5
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      continued

      Can anyone define “Socialism” practiced in Lanka any differently?

      When everything is stripped away only one simple truth remains ……… the stupid/gullible will get exploited ……. and it predates Adam and Eve ……….. call it any name you like ……. if that makes you feel any better …………

      • 4
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        Common-man, my foot ……….. I’ve come to know the Bandarainayakes well, due to a marriage that happened some years ago …….. I can assure you their disdain for the common-man is genuine and palpable :)) ……… to hell with Sinhala-Buddhism; they are obnoxious diehard Christian Anglophiles as well ……..

  • 4
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    Thanks Dr. Lional and Micheal Cooke.
    Mano Ratwatta is JOKE!
    Trumpland hates socialism and wants Venezuela’s Oil, just as it wants to set up military bases in Sri Lanka in its Cold War with China today. The US-UK Human Rights endgame in Sri Lanka is to establish a Military Base aka Logisitcs Hub. This is why today the Washington Consensus is waging low intensity ECONOMIC WAR against Sri Lanka, and has put Lanka in the IMF-WB_ADB Debt trap and what the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam called the “Bail Out Business” with accounting firms KPMG, Deloitt, PWC and Arthur Anderson. This corrupt international network that works for America First and the Global 1 percent keep putting poor and Middle Income Countries (MIC) is debt traps so that IMF and the network can stay in Business. IMF has to almost close down some years ago because of lack of clients for its HIPC project.
    Today 55% of Sri Lanka’s sovereign debt is held by un-named international bond trades and “Vulture Funds” and international Big Banks. Though Lanka paid 1 billion USD in January and is due to pay another $4 billion to bond traders, the names of these debt holders are not disclosed to the people of lanka who have right to know which corrupt vulture funds have put the country in the debt trap with corrupt politicians form UNP and SLFP. Another 30 percent of Lanka’s sovereign debt is held by Japan and ADB – US proxies. US and its Euro-Japan Allies are waging a low scale economic war against Sri Lanka, as in Venezuvela to asset strip strategic lands, transport infrastructure and marine resources like LNG ..

    • 4
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      I have been to Don Stanley for super many times. Initially food was great and clean later the condition deteriorated.

      • 2
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        Don Stanley is desperately trying to be intellectually superior here. That or he has a flaccid dick or suffer premature ejaculations. Everytime he utters something he is full of put-downs and things he scores points by insulting people.

    • 5
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      “waging low intensity ECONOMIC WAR against Sri Lanka”

      Why did “Socialism” failed in the 70s during Sirimavo’s time ……… when the “brilliant” LSE double-doctor N M Perera was running the economy?

      Was that failure too was due to outside forces?

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    who is michael cooke?

  • 6
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    This again is South Africa during the apartheid years. The haves and the have nots. Whites and blacks. South America’s indigenous populations are being suppressed by the recent migrants who came from the western world and are supported by it. In the decades of the past they came in search of riches – gold, oil, timber, land – which they took over mostly by violence. The transition from there into dominance in the modern economic world was a given. These whites today control the economy and the lands. Chavez went some way into altering that balance. Maduro follows in Chavez’ footsteps. But the whites, together with their western partners, see a chance to wrest back control and lord it again over the indigenous populations. The battle will go on, the haves against the have nots. The whites and west cannot lose control over the oil and gold.

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      D
      You are mostly correct.
      However, it is not really White v Colour. It is really a question of class.
      The upper classes and upper middle classes are predominantly White. There are many poor Whites who are with the PSV government.
      *
      Thanks Lionel for the patience to respond in detail to a load of silly but misleading utterances.

  • 1
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    Don Stanley says that US is playing low intensity Economic war against Sri lanka. I say, withing the next govt term, if measures are not taken Sri lankan Banks will go bankrupt or become insolvent, if those are in the stock market. Banks should be careful giving loans, when the rupee is too low, when the american elections are over. Sri lanka economy may crash.Even the budget did not have any programs to lift the rupee value versus dollar.

  • 0
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    What ever it is, american State Department has present a some SPECIAL WOMAN TITLE TO ONE SRI LANKAN WOMAN TOO. Generally, they recognize as knights, sirs, etc., etc., only their CIA agents. In this woman’s case, she is working with the Sri lankan Army, and many ministries. HEr qualifications suits very much a CIA agent occupied in NGO work.

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    I too thought that the letters Mano reproduced and the photo of a man rummaging a garbage bin had no credibility whatsoever to what he was trying to imply. I hope he will now respond to Lionel and Michael.

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    Lionel (I do not know who Michael Cooke is), let me start by saying I have a lot of respect for you for telling some of the facts in relation to Lanka. But this exercise of yours, shows the vein attempts made by the die hard believers of a dying political system. I had mentioned elsewhere about how Scandinavian countries are successful in a divided and conflicting political system. Simple reason is they did not follow the failed socialism policies. Let me ask you a few things I am aware of which are similar to what is in Lanka. Didnt Chavez run a militant junta which went around threatening nominees and voters who did not agree with Chavez ??(as in white vans) The elections you have mentioned are they real or SHAM.(as in MR) Didnt he use the income including government controlled PDVSA in bribing and giving subsidiaries to buy voters and support.(as in MR/MS appointees are their supporters) Didnt he the one who invited foreign companies including US to drill oil wells. When US wanted a share in profits didnt he give marching orders to vacate within days leaving everything they invested ($ Billions). When Obama took over within months he made gestures to mend relationship (first ever) and went over and shook hands in a US session to see Chavez on his return to Venezuela called him a dog and used racial slurs. Give one country which has succeeded following Socialism alone????/There is more but I will stop right here for your reply. Lionel we both are born and raised in Lanka. We very well know how MR won elections, how Srimas socialism helped the poor and how good Wimal,s communism is. Dont we.????

  • 5
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    A simple request to the editors of Colombo Telegraph:
    This is supposed to be discussion and discourse in ENGLISH.
    While the material appears in English script it is often totally incomprehensible!
    If people insist on airing their views they should, at least, be able to say what they intend in simple comprehensible English.
    What is appearing now in CT is beyond ludicrous.
    CT, PLEASE DO NOT PUBLISH GIBBERISH!

    • 0
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      Mr. Putin: what you are talking. did you forget what you started to write

  • 1
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    Thanks. I was hoping the intellectuals will write to rebut a simpleton like myself. I am quite away of the Role the US plays in overthrowing democracies and written about it a few times. What is wrong with being an educated upper middle class professional like my friend who LIVES In Maracaibo? We all know about that when a state takes control and rations and tells people what they can have or have not, while it is Naththal or Christmas for the rulers (Kim of North Korea or so many other big rightwing to leftwing dictators are the same) If ex-JVPer Bopage cares to read some of my columns on US and Sri LAnka and even the 2015 election you will get a better understanding. Iran and Chile are examples of US via CIA overhrowing regimes. But right now, Venezuela’s crisis is SELF INFLICTED MATE.. When oil was $100 to $140 a BBL times were different. So yes US hoping for a military mutiny failed. Al Jazeera has superb commentaries on it. But thanks for the different point of view. I still prefer to take the view of people who LIVE IN Venezuela. The working classes and the military are still with Maduro. As my friend wrote Guiado is an American plant. But so far it has failed. As for socialism: your party Mr. Bopage went to war twice in Sri Lanka and unfurled so much misery and violence too. And please please list socialist state controlled economies that are booming.. I am not talking about European Democratic socialist nations with greater state control.

    I stand by my facts about what happened when people had to be forced; yes the economic situation in the world at that time caused some of those restrictions; but people suffered. Write about how many CTB buses the socialist JVP burnt mate and how many people they killed and the UNP government killed and also how many banks and gold shops were robbed. Thanks though. If you read the post, I posted very little commentary. It was ONE person’s views from INSIDE Venezuela in Maracaibo.. If socialism is so good so many of the JVP types will be in Cuba or old communist nations like N.Korea and not in capitalist democratic socialist nations of Europe mate

  • 1
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    And add to that General Sisi the US backed President who overthrew a democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood(MB) government in Egypt won 97% of the vote.. Obama was silent. So was Samantha Powers.. I hears Saddam also won elections like that. MB won the first democratic election in Egypt. They went too much towards Islamization. Then there were urban middle class protests and violent clashed again similar to what led to the overthrow of the US ally Hosni Mubarak. I know Obama was mute when Saudis crossed the causeway/ bridge and crushed pro-democracy Shia majority Bahrainis.

    Trump is nothing but a wanna be dictator and loves dictators and strongmen more. This was not about any of those. My friend lives in Maracaibo. What is wrong with sharing his views with this mostly emigre’ or expat Sri Lankan community? It is not like most people will return to SL mate?

    Why did JVP murder Professor Stanley Wijesundere and Dr. Mrs. Gladys Jayawardene? Why did it burn alive and uncle of mine? why did it kill people for raising the flag on Independence day?

  • 0
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    John Bolton appuhamy is a war monger and a crazy man who wants to start a war with Iran. I am quite aware. Sometimes it will help if you intellectual types stop being condescending.

    Trump got 46.1% OF PEOPLE who voted. Hillary anti got 48.2% of those voters who cast their votes. In the US we have a system of Electoral college votes based on population percentage in each state. The total number is 538. Trump won 304 and Hillary Anti won 227. Check your facts because you are an intellectual and not a simpleton like me. Also only 55% of the eligible voters voted in the 2016 Presidential elections. CHECK facts mate. But thanks again. That is why I publicly laughed at USAID in the US Embassy Facebook and commented on them, trying to tell gullible youth of the Selfie era who they were going to make Sri Lanka youth more politically aware to “increase voter participation” . WTF?

    All I can say is how sadly being part of the privileged, but going to a government school the anger and relentless invectives of good friends . That was fair. Because people were sick of the queues and rations because it was still privileges for the elite but kakiri for the masses. Tell me how did the Estates taken over by the government perform please. Also refer facts on US.

    I am NOT at all saying Socialism is bad ; Capitalism is good. I am more with Bernie Sanders and willing for my taxes to go up if we can get universal healthcare for all. US is an Oligarchy with no safety nets or less safety nets for the less privileged now. But its healthcare nationally is abysmal. There are some good in Sri Lanka like free healthcare for anyone. I know of 2 people who go to the government health care system for diabetes and the other who had heart surgery at no cost. I will have to declare bankruptcy in the US once my insurance from my job runs out mate. Thanks again. Intellectuals are a blessing for this expatriate forum. Why did the JVP murder my friend’s father Professor Stanley Wijesundere? Why did you burn one of my uncles alive? If your JVP views were so great, all it takes is convincing to win elections right mate?

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      Whay Lionel put forward here are not JVP views (BTW he is not in the JVP) but sound arguments that refute your attack on the Maduro government based on the views of a parasitic class.

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        How is an Architect and a Petroleum Engineer with a PhD be a parasitic class? Only in PolPot’s Cambodia was that view held. It is scary to see people call them that. They add value to the economy of a country by engaging in productive jobs and not in political science. As a teacher, I was paid well for my job adding value by teaching non-political science computer programming skills that help students get good jobs in the vibrant private sector economy. In the end, if our positive values we add are greater than negative values we add like expecting government handouts and engage in class envy we will all do well. If people living in US, Canada, France etc engage in this resentful class resentment non-existent unproductive political science based arguments then sadly they are mistaken. Peace to all. I abhor violence. If Lionel Bopage read previous personal opinions of mine he will know that this is not about the US. Sri Lanka and Venezuela are self inflicted crisis brought about by local and global economic factors. For Venezuela it is the oil prices that caused the crisis even after notable positive social equity measures. Even US ally Saudi Arabia the most repressive kingdom in the world , found themselves in trouble when oil prices went down and they had to curtail some of their welfare measures. Government is not there to give handouts to people.

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          So a PhD will make one non-parasitic!
          Before Chavez all the oil profit went to an elite class and to multinationals. The classes that benefitted from the old system are most resentful of the sharing of that wealth with the underprivileged.
          Investment in education, health care and social security is not a matter of handouts but investment in people for the benefit of the country. If one has difficulty in understanding this, there is little worth in commenting further.

  • 1
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    Lionel Bopage and Michael Cooke
    Countries in American Continent may flaunt their sovereignty only within approved limits.
    Chile’s Salvador Allende had potential to step outside the limits, was replaced with Augusto Pinochet and the rest is history. Mexico is on a leash. Trusted ally Noriega was replaced to tell others that plants are dispensable
    Venezuela is in American Continent AND is oil rich.
    .
    Mano Ratwatte was off target in his earlier article.
    In this article, Lionel Bopage and Michael Cooke are off off-target.
    Ceylonese socialists, turned carpet-baggers, are doing well.
    Lankan socialists suffered because their leaders were clumsy, ill prepared and did not have a clear vision. There was no Lankan Maduro. The buck stops here.

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      Carpetbaggers!
      Would not that description fit the overseas LTTE proxies better than any other?

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    But I liked reading Bopage’s defense of socialism. I am a simpleton not a learned political scientist nor an intellectual like him. Does he write from Sri Lanka or Paris? or Some other western capitalist nation? That matters because it will be about credibility. Or perhaps from Cuba? Cuba is a unique case not like North Korea a failed dictatorship pretending to be communist. Russia now is an Oligarchy with a massive privileged super rich class mostly made up of former top communist officials ! They grabbed the plums when the State dissolved. Name 5 successful Socialist nations today. This is not about the USA. And my friend’s mom got a PhD in Petroleum Engineering; in PolPot’s Cambodia such people would have been treated as enemies of the state. SIGH SIGH.

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    Lionel was responding to serious debate. Could have avoided unwanted bluffing.
    “Mr Ratwatte, did you check the bona fides of your correspondent. Did he engage in violent attacks on his opponents? If not, does he know who did? Is he prepared to name the killers so they can be charged for their crimes? Until he clarifies his role in the lethal 2014 demonstrations against government supporters his views are suspect. “
    The actual situation in North was, “you pass hint on your neighbor’s daughter, she complains to father, he warn- then all what happened is the rowdy complain the neighbor to police as a LTTE. The woman will be thrown to free rape, and the father will disappear. “Everyone knows Kirishanti’s Mother, her brother and other family members’ fate. Everybody knows what happened to the missing persons’ relatives who complained to Paranagama commission, until UNHRC forced it to be closed. I ask Lionel one thing, he knows better what Rapist Army did in 1971; He knows better what JVP did. Why didn’t he do what he is asking from the letter writing boys could have done? Why exited Lankawe? Why didn’t he have the Rapist Army and JVP punished? Many external sources have asked Lankawe many times to setup fair Court instead of Sinhala Jury only and establish a proper witness protection to the affected ones come forward, instead the activists talk for them. Does Lionel have any idea why Lankawe sending Samarasinghe to establish Zero Casualty at UNHRC instead? Witness and proves are not important if the logbooks can tell how many bullets fired and who and who were missing in the camps and stations. When BBC anchorage showed Army shooting naked prisoners and asked why can’t Appe Aanduwa arrest the criminals, Rajiva replied, “Come On, who knows who they are out of 250,000 troops. “ Wijayaweera was thrown alive in incinerator. Witnesses have told about that who did it. Will Lionel do something about it?

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    “ In the May 2018 presidential election in Venezuela, Maduro was re-elected as president with 68 percent of the vote with a voter turnout of 46 percent. The percentage of eligible voters who voted for Maduro was 31.7 percent. Compare this with the US President Trump who received only 27.3 percent of the vote and an even lower 26.8 percent for the Prime Minister of Canada Trudeau. “ Lionel playing the same trick again. That was not the election pattern when Chavez handed over to Maduro. Is Lionel thinks of Australia where election cannot be democratically boycotted? In poor country, with lot of problems like Venezuela, 46% voting means a real boycott of election. In countries like Australia, US Canada, Scandinavian countries voters don’t like to vote. But that was not boycotting. It was open in US that Blacks and Spanish stayed out of last election. They didn’t want Trump. They didn’t want Hillary. But it doesn’t mean election was not fair. In North 80% voted in NPC election when CV was standing as the CM. In almost over a year later, only 43% voted in the election for EP. Is Lionel argues that because out of the voted, many voted to New King, they will like New King replace CV? Clearly North rejected the Sinhala Parties and their politics. Lionel, who inserted himself into serious debate had the responsibility to establish if Maduro was really voted in by Venezuelans. Lionel would be considered innocent when he plays this “Confusing the Reader Game” only if he believe, Venezuela is another US, Australia or Canada. But Lionel confused him when he wanted to refusing that Venezuela is just another Lankawe, the previous writers’ contention. I think, Lionel is still better off accepting that stand.

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    Here a good explanation was given what was Sirimavo’s Socialism and why Sirimavo’s Socialism failed. Sirimavo’s pretension of Socialism was only because of her good understanding of Sinhala Buddhist’s IQ 79. After messing up, she was the one appealed to ultra conservative capitalist, Regan for help. These are not the real issues disappointing in Lionel’ reply. Lionel did know the writer had kept the essay at layman level. Lionel had two options. Stay at that level and placing counter arguments. In reality Lionel had nothing to go by that way. Because, at laymen level, Venezuela is Lankawe. Alternatively he can take a professional outward look in each point. In that case Lionel’s most part of reply might have been the suitability of Socialism or capitalism for both counties. But, disappointingly, most part of the essay is rubbish defense and attack back, instead of clarifying theories. For a political or economic theoretician, Venezuela differs a lot from Lankawe. It is in the American backyard. They will not allow it become Cuba or Crimea, which was forcefully swallowed by Russia from Ukraine. North East Cannot be annexed India, because the inhabitants are Tamils and many part of the past history, South Indian Kings Controlled it.

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    Though their Socialisms are not same, but Venezuela has exactly matched Lankawe Modaya politicians on taking on giants. Lankawe started as the richest and a capitalist Country in South Asia. From 1948, UNP and SLFP politicians robbed the country and Build Family empires. Venezuela didn’t follow the style of Lankawe family empire building. (So it has good chance of turning around by a regime change, unlike 2015 failure in Lankawe) Venezuela Communism failed to build needed infrastructure when it had abundant Oil Income. Voters were just bribed with goodies. They missed the Sun to may hay. Chavez spent his valuable time and wealth on launching war on West. But some Arabian Countries concise about this foolishness have built reasonable capital from their Oil Money, by associating to Western trades. I yet have to come to know a real country that built its economy with the so called Socialism. I yet have to come to know a real country that was supported by communist country to grow its economy.
    Another real similarity of Lankawe and Venezuela is with their IQ level a Lee Kwan Yew cannot have his political and economic policies implemented. It has nothing to do with the class. It is to do everything with their mentality of expecting Arrack and Biryani. Otherwise with Oil Income they had, Venezuelans would have created another Saudi Arabia or Dubai (UAE) there. Lankawe would have beaten Singapore or Korea.

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    My Dear Lionel Sahodariya, Your occasional Marxist rantings are very similar to those of other dead Marxists of Ceylon/Sri Lanka…….usually born to privileged backgrounds, their ethos was Marxism for the “other” man, family wealth for me.
    I am sure you are from a humbler background when compared to the likes of NM and SA Wicks. It seems you have extricated yourself from the ranks of the “great unwashed”, educated yourself and are leading a comfortable existence in Australia, (perhaps one of the most capitalist countries).
    Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is; relocate to Sri Lanka and go and teach at the Ruhuna University or the Rajarata University where young potential idealists wallow?

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    Sri lanka has Mental Stress and Mental depression ,llike conditions. I do not think socizalist countries would get and that is only in Capitalist or Neo-liberal countries.

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    I am not an expert on political sciences, political systems or political ideas. I am also not an expert in religions. From what I know, all of them have something positive and good to offer to the humankind. But we who practice have distorted, disfigured, made as much changes for our convenience, used it to discriminate others , get even, used for self/political gains, together converted both into WMD and the end result is there are thousands of splinter groups claiming authenticity. Now what we witness is all the damages, losses and the negative impact of politics and religion. The diehards are still in denial and grief.The opportunist are taking it to different levels.

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      chiv, it is sad when political scientist use false facts or selective facts to insist ONLY They know the truth or what is good for people. I was dumb when I was young and defended those bloody rations and queues. Then I started working.

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    Almost sounds like Mr. Bopage is “mansplainin'” as we call it. First he got his 2016 US election data wrong. US rarely crosses 55% in eligible voter participation and his numbers were off. Of course we know in a small nation like Sri Lanka, where voter participation is always over 80% the Socialist JVP and the UNP Govt of 1988 unleashed so much violence that voter participation in some traditional leftist seats hit by the JVP violence were less than 15% Matara, and deep south were declared with abysmal percentages. Overall in the nation too voter rates were so much lower than normal. No election in US crosses those high percentages seen in other nations; why? I think it maybe because people go on by for the most part being middle class or lower middle class and get by. Of course they have major concerns about healthcare. But unlike high taxed Scandinavian Democratic socialist nations, US has lower taxes. It is something most people will never get. Also if these socialist types are so fantastic, why are they not seeking work in Cuba or N.Korea? Instead our working class labour suffer indignities in Oil rich ME nations. Others from the JVP types go to Japan, S.Korea, Italy etc. Late Somawansa A rode business class. How? I cannot afford a business class ticket. There is a lot of inferiority complexes and class envy in insults. You cannot become a PhD in Petroleum engineering without skills relevant to the global economy today. Political scientists vs Petroleum Engineer-ComputerScientist-Doctor-Engineer-IT specialist are far more values skills in market driven economies than one with Political science. Of course some can become brilliant and get Western funded NGOs to live very nice lives too.. Mr. Bopage, there was top JVP leader named Lionel Bopage in the 1970s. They wanted to kill the ruling democratic leaders and establish a PolPot Utopia. Any kin of that person? Also know now reformed Loku Athula or Podi Athula is the respected Uyangoda right? But imagine if your 1971 rebellion succeeded there would be no democracy or no democratic socialism. Thanks mate. S.Korea is a capitalist nation. France is a capitalist nation but with more social welfare. Scandinavia is unique with Norway being blessed with so much oil too. But Sweden is struggling with new arab and african immigrants and jihadis. There are lots of social issues. Why didn’;t these migrants want to go to Cuba or N.Korea?

    When I was a teenager, I too was brainwashed. I even took part in stupid May Day marches shouting “Pesalaieng thel enathuru mirisi naduwa hodhi kannam; Pesailaeng thel enathuru seeni nathuwa tey bonnam” crock. Also remember people trying to boost leaders with slogans like Mao wan Sirimavo. And she was my aunt. At that time I believed that stuff. Then I grew up, got an education and above all managed to head west and not to Cuba. Thanks mate. Maybe I feel guilty but masses suffered mate. That was a fact. You go into your analysis; that is fine. That is an explanation from your ideology. True , after Venezuela nationalized the power-grid in 2006 they had far more problems. Today there is a massive nationwide blackout. But Maduro blames the US(and it is quite possible) but others say it is typical because since Govt mismanagement, there has been lot more frequent blackouts and people were getting used to them like Sri Lankans. Venezuela has great Hydro Power and that is the main source of power inside the nation. So who knows? US did it? or bad engineering? This one I bet is more of a foreign hand. Aiyo Aiyo…

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    Mr Bopage, here is something I wrote awhile back. Also I promise this is my last response. One thing I learnt long ago from my professors was not to feel too self important and never to think I know all the truth or facts; and then some take themselves too seriously. In other words, some are bloody pompous self proclaimed, self declared “WE KNOW MORE THAN YOU” Intellectuals; reading CT I see some of them often pontificating and predicting things ; and when things are not according to predictions, they cannot admit they are wrong; Some are so bloody full of it, and think they can just be the purveyor of truths like some evangelical preachers. I came to know two Sri Lankan emigre’s both from humble backgrounds who moved to US during that socialist period. Both remain humble. One died but he was a widely respected professor in Philsophy who taught Comparative Religion. Amazing man. He once said “mano you know the problem is Sri Lankan mother train their boys to be invalids”. In other words, the culture of expecting the mother then followed by the wife to be subservient to do all the shit around the house, raise kids and even sometimes go to work but the husband is the master and king does nothing. US and its evil capitalism helped me clean bathrooms, sweep clean and of course I love to cook. The the other gentleman is now a retired Doctor. No Boru shobana; a simple man with whom I love speaking in Sinhalese when we are so isolated from it. He is a highly accomplished doctor who even proudly served in the US military overseas. Total respect. He is from humble origins. They are indeed products of Sri Lanka’s post 1956 education system that opened out to to people from outside elite circles. What amazing simple human beings. They never talk/ed as if they know the truths on matters of economics. But they came to the land of opportunity and not go to Cuba either. Thank you for your response but can you tell me why the JVP slaughtered so many patriotic Sri Lankans even for simple things like putting up the flag or doing their jobs? It was all class envy isn’t it ? A petroleum Engineer. Architect or IT specialist does for more to add to the GDP and be productive and employee people and provide jobs and education to people than a political scientist , is it not?

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    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/different-strokes/

    FYI for Mr. Bopage and others who just run to conclusions

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    What a strange debate. Mano Ratwatte seems to miss a very fundamental point in all of this. Venezuela held democratic elections which Mr Maduro won in 2013 and 2018, just as Hugo Chavez did previously. Whilst the outcome of these elections did not suit the economic elites, including Mr Ratwatte’s young friend, this does not give the US the right to undermine the Venezuelan government, much less intervene politically or militarily. The US has a long imperialist history of intervening in Central and South America, Granada, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Cuba, Chile, the list goes on. The fundamental question is not a matter of intellectual superiority, ideology or the interests of ruling elites, it is whether we are prepared to support the right of a sovereign nation to its own self determination or not?

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      MG
      Also after the PSV lost the Assembly elections in 2015, regional elections for governors reversed the picture.

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    Mano , Thanks for your valuable opinion. I believe yours and Nimal,s opinion put together are reality of Socialism in Lanka.

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    Thank you all for your comments. A good presentation of diverse views people hold. I may not address each and every point, but here is our general response.

    Michael Colin Cooke is a retired public servant and trade union activist who has a lifelong interest in South Asian history, politics and culture. He has served as an election monitor in Sri Lanka. He has also penned when the occasion demanded a number of articles, and book and film reviews.

    Ever since Hugo Chavez won the presidency in Venezuela in 1998, its elections have been internationally monitored. For example, the Carter Centre of the US observed that of the ninety odd elections they had monitored, the electoral system in Venezuela was the best in the world. The Organization of American States (OAS) commented that the elections were clean, clear and transparent, and showed the Venezuelan people’s devotion to democracy. Since his election, Chavez had launched anti-corruption and anti-poverty campaigns. Venezuela was one of the first countries to introduce fingerprint electronic voting machines thus minimizing the risk of electoral fraud. A redrafted constitution was approved by 71.8 percent in a fully transparent election.

    Chávez was re-elected in 2000. The opposition leaders announced a petition for a referendum against the legitimacy of Chavez’s administration in 2004. The National Electoral Council (CNE) announced the referendum on June 8, 2004. The referendum led to a 58 percent no vote for recalling the President. The authenticity of the results became a point of contention. Since then the opposition has been claiming election fraud. However, election observers have contradicted them by saying that the referendum was performed in a legitimate and judicial manner. Chavez won again in 2006 with over 60 percent of the votes. In 2007, the Chavez regime wanted to amend the constitution including abolishing presidential term limits, which from our point of view was unwarranted. The opposition to these reforms won with a slim majority. This was the first major success of the opposition and Chavez regime gracefully accepted this defeat (contd).

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    Following the death of Chavez, the 2013 presidential elections was a close contest between Nicolas Maduro and the opposition’s Henrique Capriles. About 80 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots and Maduro won with a slim margin of about 1.5 percent. Maduro was sworn in as the new president on 19 April 2013. The opposition cried of electoral fraud and demanded a full audit of the 15 million ballots cast. The CNE agreed to a partial audit and concluded there were no irregularities. This was challenged in the Supreme Court with claims of “violence” at the polls and voter “coercion”. However, the court dismissed the case due to the lack of solid evidence.

    The municipal elections on December 8, 2013, and the parliamentary elections in 2015 was a decisive defeat for the ruling PSUV. They lost control of the Assembly for the first time since 1999. The coalition of the opposition – Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) contested the National Assembly elections and won with a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly. This was the first win by the pro-US forces since Chavez’s election in 1998. The CNE claimed with evidence that some members of the National Assembly were elected through fraudulent means and therefore, their election was illegitimate. In November 2016, the Supreme Court adjudicated that all decisions made by the National Assembly were null and void.

    Maduro then planned to replace the National Assembly with a new body of delegates called the National Constituent Assembly (ANC). The opposition rejected this move entirely saying it was unconstitutional. Nevertheless, the Maduro regime initiated a dialogue to discuss their concerns. The opposition even agreed to a date of holding the election. Yet, after a month, the opposition wanted to impeach Maduro allegedly without adhering to due process. (Contd)

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    The opposition called for public to rise up which led to violent protests, killings, injuries and property damages.

    The opposition called for international support to stop the ANC elections and on election day tried to prevent voters from entering polling booths in the rural areas by erecting street barricades. The Maduro regime responded by opening makeshift polls in stadiums and other public areas. The turnout was low as a result. The Maduro regime declared the election a success with all pro-Maduro candidates being elected, despite the low participation by the opposition. The opposition and the US contested the timing of the elections and the legitimacy of the elected ANC. The US imposed stricter sanctions against Venezuela and claimed the general elections were neither free nor fair. In light of the long history of Venezuela of holding fair elections, how could one not come to the conclusion that this election was not also free and fair?

    Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves. The price of oil collapsed significantly in the 1980s. When oil prices plummeted, Venezuela was suddenly deep in debt. With the International Monetary Fund, Venezuela’s pro-US regime pursued neoliberal, market-oriented solutions; they cut back on social programs, eliminated price controls, and privatized state-owned companies. The intention was to try and make the economy run more efficiently, but it didn’t work. Corruption in Venezuela was rampant. Cost of living sky-rocketed and the people took to the streets in 1989. Venezuelans felt deceived and became fed up with the regime. Overvaluing the Venezuelan currency exchange rate to keep the Venezuelan Bolívar artificially strong made the rich Venezuelans richer.

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    At that time and now during the current crisis, what is clearly evident is the necessity to diversify the economy. An extremely high reliance on the petroleum sector of the economy will continue to be a high-risk strategy. At a discussion held recently in Melbourne, I questioned the Venezuelan diplomat, why they did not learn from the experiences of Cuba that highly relied on sugar. The answer was that it was difficult to change an economy that has for well over a century relied on oil. Whilst there is some truth to his contention, they cannot solely rely on such a volatile (in terms of price shift).
    For an economy almost entirely dependent on oil – plunging oil prices and lack of successful economic policies had led to extraordinarily high inflation in the economy. The major issue in the 1980s and now was that the system was set up for the elite to take away the huge profits for private use, without the revenue being allowed to be percolated to the rest of the society and to be used for social programs to reduce poverty and inequality. Chavez and the Bolivars broke that inequitable nexus and hence the resentment and fury he and his supporters have engendered. His regime benefited from the higher prices and invested a lot of the profits into social programs to help the poor. It was not done solely for winning elections. The working and the poor loved such social programs. (Contd)

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